INDIANAPOLIS – Nearly eight months after the Colts left Baltimore following a 24-9 AFC Divisional Round loss, the road to get back to playing in January begins on Sunday.
Lucas Oil Stadium will be the site for the 2013 regular season opener with the Oakland Raiders opposing the Colts on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Outside expectations have grown for the Colts in 2013 and the national recognition has already started with Andrew Luck gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated last week.
Inside the cover was a feature story on how NFL teams gathered information in trying to defend spread offenses this year.
It's been the talk of the offseason and the Colts will get a dose of it on Sunday.
"Because of the success that people had last year running the read option, everybody went out in the offseason and did their due diligence, just like we did, as far as researching the things that you need to do to stop it," Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week.
"Some teams are a little bit more complex than others. Some are in the pistol and have one back back there. You'll see this team come in here on Sunday and there could be that situation, that scenario right there, or there could be as many as three backs back there in a diamond formation with the quarterback in the pistol. So we definitely did our research as well as everybody else did. You get caught with your pants down, they can make you look really silly."
Although Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen has yet to officially name a starting quarterback, it appears Terrelle Pryor will get the nod on Sunday afternoon.
Pryor has played in just four games (one start) in his three-year NFL career but he showed during the preseason his unique skill set at the quarterback position.
This week will likely be the first of three games where the spread attack will be the Colts opposition during the first month of the season.
"Everybody's got to be disciplined," defensive end Cory Redding said. "You have guys that are assigned for the dive, guys assigned for the quarterback and guys assigned to contain. You have to be disciplined and not do more than what you're supposed to do. So if everybody plays disciplined football, we should be alright."
It's hasn't been your typical week of preparation for the Colts with the Raiders incorporating nine new defensive starters.
Nonetheless, it's still game week, and a regular season game that counts just the same as any primetime contest this season.
When Pagano addresses his team earlier this week, he sensed the feeling that hasn't been around the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center since early January.
"There's a heightened level of enthusiasm, excitement, but the focus is what I love," Pagano said on Wednesday.
"Our walkthrough was like dead silent in there. I'm wondering where is the excitement, but it was basically because we've been working on these guys like everyone else has been working on their opener for a while, but you could see the focus was there and the attention to detail and getting this plan in place so that we can go out, execute and play fast Sunday and not think."
INTERESTING MATCHUPSRaiders running back Darren McFadden versus Colts front seven:Yes, the spread offense has gotten a lot of the attention this week but Chuck Pagano was very clear in what option No. 1 was for his defense. McFadden can impact the game out of the backfield and in the receiving department. The Raiders are 10-2 when McFadden rushes for at least 100 yards and no matter who is under center for Oakland on Sunday, a heavy dose of No. 20 should be expected.Colts quarterback Andrew Luck versus Raiders defense: Luck will see nine different defensive starters from 2012 for the Raiders. Coordinator Jason Tarver held the same position during Luck's senior season at Stanford so he has familiarity facing the Colts quarterback. It appears the Colts will have their all of their skill position players available on Sunday as they face a defense with veterans Tracy Porter and Charles Woodson in the secondary.
-The Colts are looking for their seventh straight win at home.
-The Colts are looking for their first season opening win since 2009.
-Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009-2012) and center Samson Satele (2009-2011) used to play for the Raiders.
-If Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri scores at least a point on Sunday, it will mark his 100th straight game scoring for the Colts.
-Raiders are 10-2 when running back Darren McFadden rushes for 100 yards.
-Raiders kick returner Jacoby Ford has 4 career touchdown returns, which is the most in Raiders history.
-Raiders safety Charles Woodson ranks second among active players with 55 interceptions.
-Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski has kicked 42 career field goals of at least 50 yards.NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the differences you face depending on whether you face Terrelle Pryor or Matt Flynn):
-"I think they're both really good players, as we all know. I think Pryor, obviously with his athleticism, we've watched him in the preseason. We've watched him for a long time. We all know what he can do outside the pocket and the way he can create and the way he can run the read option. He gives you another dimension from a defensive standpoint that you got to take care of. He's dangerous on the move. And so again, whether they're running read option with him, drop back to pass, if it's not there then the guy can take off. He can scramble. He can scramble to run. He can scramble to make a play down the field. Again, they're both really good quarterbacks. We'll prepare for both guys and be ready to face whoever they decide to line up under center."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the task of defending Darren McFadden):
-"That's first and foremost. We have our work cut out for us with (Terrelle) Pryor, but stopping McFadden is our major concern with the run-game. As we all know, he's a big, fast, physical guy that can run between the tackles and he can cut it back or he can bounce outside. If you give him a crease, he's got the speed to obviously take it the distance. He's a home run hitter, so we got to make sure we set the edge in the defense and get as many hats on Darren as possible."
Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck(on facing a team, and defense, with so many new faces)
-"Watching film you're not going to watch it really for personnel stuff from last year. Preseason gives you a little more sense of personnel but I don't think they have maybe, healthy guys, a healthy unit the whole time but we expect a healthy, very, very good unit. Having the same scheme, having Coach [Jason] Tarver be there, it's not like you're preparing for a whole new scheme. Obviously there will be some unknowns but you have to trust your rules and it's going to be a tough battle. I have a lot of respect for Coach Tarver and the Raiders are a great franchise so it's going to be fun."
Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen(on where your team is in trying to integrate so many new faces):
-"We got 26 players that will play their first game as a Raider. There's been a lot of change and a lot of adjustment period that we've had to go through. Those guys have been working extremely hard to try to get down the things that we're going to ask them to do. I think defensively, I think we've brought in a nice mix of veteran players along with some young players that can really help us. I'm pleased with where we're at. We're still continuing to grow as a team together and we'll continue that improvement that I want to see throughout the season."
Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen(on what went into the decision with wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey):
-"Listen, when Darrius Heyward-Bey was here, he did everything that we asked him to do. He was a great worker. Sometimes the circumstances dictate things that you have to do. It was really a situation of circumstance. I got nothing but good things to say about Darrius Heyward-Bey. I think he's a good football player. I think he's an excellent person. I think he's a great teammate."
Raiders Running Back Darren McFadden(on if the team has a bit of a chip on its shoulder with outside expectations not very high on the Raiders):
-"Yeah, like you said, people don't expect us to do much at all. But just from what we have here and being inside these four walls, we know what we can do out here. So we're going to go out there and surprise a lot of people."